Nestled in the southern reaches of Indonesia’s Maluku province, Banda Island and its surrounding remote spice islands are a captivating destination that remains a well-kept secret for outdoor enthusiasts and history aficionados. Comprising ten lush volcanic islands, Banda offers a diverse range of experiences, where you can hike a still-active volcano and snorkel over coral-encrusted lava flows one day, then step back in time by visiting a 17th-century fort and 300-year-old ruins the next. These islands, once pivotal in the famous Spice Routes, boast a history that’s nothing short of enthralling.

Centuries ago, Banda Island was identical with spices, especially nutmeg and mace. These tiny, remote islands were the epicentre of the global spice trade during the Age of Exploration, sought after by European powers like the Dutch and the Portuguese. The Banda Islands were so valuable that they were once exchanged for other territories, such as Manhattan, then known as New Amsterdam, which was swapped by the Dutch for control of these spice-rich lands.

Today, the same waters that once bore the weight of spice-laden ships now offer a different kind of treasure: an underwater paradise of unparalleled beauty. Banda Island’s underwater world is celebrated for its pristine coral reefs and remarkable marine biodiversity. Karang Hatta, a reef situated southeast of Pulau Hatta, is of particular interest to divers. Its proximity to the 6,000-meter-deep Banda trench makes it an intriguing spot, offering a higher likelihood of encountering significant pelagic species. Divers can marvel at the spectacle of schooling trevallies, barracudas, tuna, turtles, and the thrilling sight of hammerhead sharks and gray reef sharks near this underwater during a specific time of the year. 

One of the most unique features of Banda Island is the possibility to explore a remarkable underwater bridge. This bridge, adorned with soft corals and large gorgonian fans, is also home to various pygmy seahorses. In the shallower waters and among the remnants of collapsed sea walls and jetties, the enchanting mandarin fish congregate, making Banda Island one of the world’s premier destinations for spotting these captivating creatures.

The Banda Sea, the deepest body of water in Indonesia with some parts going as deep as 7,000 m. Diving enthusiasts will find over 30 exceptional dive sites scattered across the Banda Islands, most accessible only through liveaboard diving due to their remote locations. What sets Banda’s underwater world apart is the stunning diversity it offers, from the majestic pilot whales to minuscule pygmy seahorses, all coexisting in a thriving underwater ecosystem. The highlight, however, is the sheer multitude of vibrant marine life and colossal schools of fish, a spectacle that rivals renowned destinations like Raja Ampat but with fewer crowds. Keep a watchful eye for the graceful spinner dolphins and the occasional appearance of melonhead, blue, and humpback whales, known to be frequent visitors to these waters. 

“Banda Island truly offers a convergence of history and underwater wonders, making it a hidden gem that deserves exploration by intrepid travellers. For those planning a visit, the ideal time to explore these diverse islands is from March to April and September to December, promising the best conditions and experiences. Explore and learn more about Indonesia’s unique destinations at BBTF 2024 – meet the sellers from East Indonesia and experts as your business partners. The business potentials are growing and we wish to grow with you. As the Travel Agent Associations based in Bali we are happy to meet you soon.” I Putu Winastra, the head committee of BBTF 2023-2024 and chairman of ASITA Bali chapter stating.

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